I know I don't speak for all Caribbean families, but I would say out of the group that I know, 3 out of every 5 have been sexually abused in some way, and the stats are just as bad in the United States. Whether it's molestation, sexual assault, harassment or rape. What's even more concerning is that this act is usually done by someone close, a family member or a close family friend. I was very reluctant to cover this topic and share my story, but as I begin to share it with those close to me, I realized that I wasn't alone in the burden of carrying such horrible scars. It's important enough to discuss and one that plague so many communities, across different nationalities and cultures. More attention and awareness needs to be brought to the issue and if sharing my story helps even one person become familiar with the signs or find peace than it would be worth it for me.
I would say we miss the opportunity to teach our children the power of No and setting boundaries.
See my mom never sat me down and had the talk. You know the one that tells you, ok this is your safe space, this is your vagina, these are your breast, your private parts. This is your body and noone gets to touch you there. The difference between good touch and bad touch. No one gets to make you feel uncomfortable. And in the event they do, you need to tell me or another adult for help.
However, you do get a lesson in respect. You need to kiss and greet everyone that comes to your house. Respect your elders, they're always right. Our culture teaches us that we should be submissive and take care of the man. Never say no to an adult, never talk back and in the event that I hear you're talking back or being disrespectful, be ready to face the consequences. Any adult has the green light to spank you if they catch you doing something bad. And the list goes on and on. This is such a blurry line and set of rules to navigate as a child. Nowhere in the lesson does the child get empowered to know that this only applies to certain adults and circumstances. It doesn't apply to those abusing you.
My mom did a lot of cooking from home. It's how she made her living. She would cook and sale plates from the house and my dad would be gone all day with the migrant bus picking fruit. In our yard was a domino table and chairs and was the common hang out place for many people in the community we lived. In addition to the food, my mom would sale drinks and beers and various pastries that she'd make as well. I was always there. Not allowed to be across the street with my siblings playing, but right there helping her cook and making the runs to the back room to get things people would request. Little did she know that keeping me beside her made me the easiest target. In her mind she probably thought the safest place for me was with her.
Most request for something retrieved from the back become an opportunity for predator's to corner me and molest and sexually assault me. It started happening so often and by so many different people that I thought it was normal. I was always afraid to say no. Scared to say stop. So I just sat there like the good respectful kid I was being raised to be and followed whatever request that was made. When I finally mustered the courage to confide in someone that should have been there to protect me, they turned around and did the same thing.
For so long I was embarrassed by my trauma. I was broken and hurt and didn't know how to deal with it. I wanted to run away and never return. Some days as young as 8, I remember I just wanted to die. I thought it was me. That somehow I attracted these things to happen. I went through a tomboyish period thinking that if I changed my look, that maybe I'd be less attractive to them. I finally learned that if I participated in everything at school, that would reduce my time at home and school became my safe haven.
Within my first month in the Army after all the sexual harassment training I came to the realization that it wasn't me at all. So many of the bad decisions I was making in my life stemmed from that trauma. Every feeling that I tried to run away from would resurface whenever I spoke to family or visited my hometown. The trauma was starting to consume me and I found myself in such a dark place.
I decided to seek counseling to deal with it all. The crazy thing about counseling is they open up all these wounds in an effort to help you deal with them; but as soon as you get comfortable and open up, that timer goes off, session is over and you're left to deal with the trauma and emotions alone until the next session.
Well it was really early into my relationship with my boyfriend and I'd just return from one of my sessions. I cancelled the plans we had and he could tell from my voice on the phone that something was wrong. He came over and noticed I'd been crying and asked me to talk to him. I was vulnerable, an emotional wreck and wasn't sure I wanted to share that part of my life with him just yet or at all. He hugged me and held me and whispered in my ears that I'm here and will always be whenever you're ready to talk. For the first time in my life I felt safe. His embrace felt like an armour. All the emotions and feelings were right there at the tip of my tongue from my session and I felt that if I didn't get it out I'd suffocate. I felt protected by him and I knew that no one could hurt me now without my permission. I looked in his eyes and they felt so safe. I finally felt ready to talk about all of the secrets, all of the pain and all of the trauma and he just sat there, held me tightly and listened. For the next several hours, with tears dripping down my face, I emptied my soul. Story after story he held me tightly and just listened.
The end had come. It was out. Everything that I kept inside for decades was finally out. All my secrets exposed. I instantly felt naked in the most uncomfortable way. Oh shit! What did I just do, I thought to myself? So embarrassed I sat up and looked at him and said, are you ready to leave now? You think I'm crazy?
Crazy, no. Strong, yes! That's why you need to take your power back. It's not fair that this impacts your life this way now and these people are living their life probably still doing this to others. You have such a beautiful soul, don't let them take that away from you. You need to tell your parents and you need to confront these people. Take your power back and I'll be there with you every step of the way. As he wiped away the tears in my eyes, he made me promise to take my power back and I was determined to keep that promise...TO BE CONTINUED.